The future of video journalism online (Part 1)

By VideoJournalismOnline

What’s in store for online video journalism? It’s a question we’ve had in mind as we’ve researched and written about the topic.

So here Alex Dibble asks Ross Cullen, Emily Craig and Toby Coaker for their predictions about the future of VJO:

Monetising The Market


A graphic demonstrating the growth in the video journalism online market (Creative Commons licence)

By Emily Craig

The Internet has opened up huge opportunities for journalism, but it has also exploded our understanding of what journalism is. Now print editors and broadcasters alike are trying to figure out how they can monetise their online operation. The problem? How to get people to pay for what they have up till now been enjoying for free. Advertising is one way of making money. So the question is – can video journalism pay for itself and, beyond that, even turn a profit?

Ad revenue has yet to exploit the online video market

Video journalism of all different types is attracting people online, but it appears that advertisers are not yet willing to bank on it. This means – as a general rule – that online advertising is currently cheaper than the print equivalent.

To put it another way: advertisers don’t yet want to abandon the full-page ad in the national daily for a banner ad around the edge of a video; at least, they’re not going to choose the latter in place of the former. This is despite the fact that it’s much cheaper to advertise online – it’s tens of pounds for an online newspaper ad and thousands of pounds for a print equivalent.

In a discussion about the future of newspapers on Newsnight last month, Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, claimed that video is becoming more and more important to newspapers. But he also said that the newspaper’s print edition (with a circulation of approximately 270 000) brings in more advertising revenue than guardian.co.uk (boasting more than 2, 250,000 daily users). For broadcasters and newspapers alike, there is still more ad revenue in the ‘old’ media.

But as more and more people opt to visit a newspaper’s website instead of buying its print edition and as the number of online news outlets increases, advertisers might express greater interest. In fact, video journalism presents advertisers with a particular opportunity. Whilst it’s easier for someone reading a website article to scroll past advertising, video can offer advertisers a better chance of securing a captive audience. A pre-roll video advertisement, screened before a video, can’t be skipped. Alternatively, adverts can be embedded around a video – so-called banner ads – and the viewer can’t avoid these adverts without the video disappearing from view.

YouTube earns most of its advertising revenue via these display banners and it claims that 35% of its visitors have purchased something they’ve seen advertised on the site. The likes of YouTube and Ustream also allow their video producers to sell ads around their content.

Video advertising is not without its risks. As Ashkan Karbasfrooshen, who set up video entertainment website WatchMojo, explains, ‘when it comes to ad-supported models, marketers will never feel 100% comfortable advertising alongside user-generated content’. 50% of YouTube videos have been commented on – and nobody seems to be defending the standard of contributions.

So the idea is that advertisers want professional content. And whilst most of YouTube’s videos don’t fit this description, the business of professional journalism is in a position to benefit. The more that newspapers and broadcasters spend on producing interesting, informative and entertaining video content, the more likely it is that advertisers will want to target their audience.

The New York Times offers advertisers the chance to sponsor its ‘latest and most newsworthy’ online videos. Perhaps most importantly, one advertiser is guaranteed 100% SOV (Share of Voice) so their advert will be the only one to appear in front of the viewer. The advertiser’s monthly sponsorship includes a 15 second pre-roll video advert before the  first and fourth videos on nytimes.com. They’re required to produce more than one version of an advert, so the same adverts will not appear back to back.

With this approach The New York Times recognises that its online readers do not expect to be exposed to a barrage of competing adverts when they view video content. But in this case, less can mean more. With fewer adverts, there is less danger of the viewer becoming bored and distracted. The thinking is that the discerning consumer of high-quality video content is a potentially valuable customer – the typical NYT reader is educated, well-travelled and wealthy. A case in point, the car company Jaguar is currently providing adverts for video.nytimes.com.

Newspapers and broadcasters are in a strong position to monetise online video, as long as advertisers are assured that they’re attaching their brand to professional content. But at a time when most newspapers (and some broadcasters) are facing an uncertain future, crippled by financial losses, how many will take the risk and spend money to make money?